This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Simon Lee: "Because you won't have a chance to listen to the now discontinued Neo/Groove, it won't be possible to evaluate the pair in direct comparison to the Vivid/Vita so I'll explain why we went that route. From an industrial design perspective the Neo/Groove components were better I think and Kenneth Grange would agree. Yet high-end customers prefer full-sized components and unlike the $2.200 Aura Note Premier—which remains an ongoing design favorite—they also favor separates. The Neo/Groove were 30% more costly to manufacture on cosmetics alone whereas Vivid/Vita are deliberately straightforward designs easy to manufacture. Also sales of the Neo/Groove were poor whereas Aura Note Premier sales are very consistent. Hence we decided to discontinue the Neo/Groove components and work on a more cost-effective replacement.

With Amphion Ion+ on Ardhán Audio stands

"Due to the now greater internal size we could pack more circuitry into the Vivid/Vita to make better sound with less costly enclosures and even add an FM tuner and phono stage to the integrated. For the PC connection I didn't want a 24/192 board since most Vita users won't be crazy audiophiles with high-resolution files. The Vivid CD player of course does process 24/192 files when fed from our Stello U3 and we're thus preparing a lower budget Aura U3 version for just such applications. The XLR i/o ports on both units are true balanced circuits with a ground reference like a transformer center tap. And as you rightly suspected, the headphone circuit isn't separate but uses the main Mosfet speaker outputs through a resistive voltage divider to create the proper signal strength."

"The Vita uses the very same toroidal power transformer the Groove did and the proven 50wpc single-ended p/p output stage of the Aura Note Premier where the Groove had 4 transistors per channel for higher power. The most important difference however is our A3 input buffer module which combines Jfets, resistors and capacitors and already made the Eximus DP1 special and also showed up in a partial version in the Eximus S1 amplifier. The Vita has it too and the forthcoming Stello Ai700 will as well. This added a lot of musicality over the Groove. As far as the brand goes, Aura was originally British and quite famous there about 20 years ago. It then sold to Aura Japan who secured the exclusive rights for the brand but could not find proper engineers to revitalize their legacy product line.

With AIFF-loaded iPod Classic 160GB and Cambridge Music iD100 digital-direct dock

"They contacted me asking if we could design all the new circuitry and handle their sonic engineering. Instead of R&D fees they suggested April Music take over global marketing so ownership of the brand is Japanese whilst all actual business is controlled by us. It is we who design, manufacture and distribute Aura all over the world. Aura Japan sells these products only within Japan. All chassis design for Aura is done by Kenneth Grange in the UK and Aura Japan pays those design fees. Aside from that industrial design, we do everything from circuitry to boxing. Whereas our Stello and Eximus brands are manufactured in our Korean Seoul factory, Aura is made in our Shenzen factory in mainland China.

Vita integrated, top cover and chromed front removed

"When Aura Japan commissioned the Neo/Groove designs I was a bit unhappy because that concept quite drove up the retail pricing. I really wanted to make a set which any music lover could afford easily to enjoy good quality sound. With just the Vita you can now enjoy FM, PC, phono, set-top TV and external CD and in our country many customers connect Tannoy or other European speakers to it for a really very musical performance." - Simon Lee

Upon extricating these full-width very low components from their protective foam end caps and unpeeling the plastic cling from the chromed bits—like with motorcycles these shiny dress plates are literally bolted on—they felt surprisingly heavy. Quality! The tactile feedback from the endlessly turning click-stop controls of the Vita for source and volume was slick, the multi-level dimmable/extinguishable displays were super legible and in conjunction with the deliberately clean orderly fronts elegant and friendly rather than flashy or overdone. Though the remote wands for either unit look similar, they have different buttons and are thus pre-paired with their respective components. Hence there's no confusion with switching inputs or changing display brightness on a particular unit so the other doesn't change as well.

Viva CDP/DAC, top cover and chromed front removed

The volume control smartly refused the current nonsense of operating below audibility over half its range as is common for digital solutions where nothing happens until you're at 50 or higher. Here a mute relay kicks in at 00 to firmly disconnect the outputs. Sound begins at 01 as it should. By 20 it produces normal levels in a desktop setting. An AKG K702 headphone at 25 generated equivalent output. The USB input logically called PC by the display was plug'n'play for instant gratification of streaming some BBC video. Stacking the units had them tower all of 13cm. This made for the perfect computer screen stand. They also proved shallow enough—just a few centimetres deeper than the footer of my HP2710m monitor—to not consume too much precious real estate in front of the keyboard. Though the quality of this equipment could well be gilding the lily on the work desk unless you spend sufficient quality time on it, its physical dimensions are perfectly suitable to permanently end up there.